With the exception of a two year sabbatical around the turn of the Millennium, Rovers' 20 year adventure in the top flight of English football is almost at an end. We've had great fun along the way with far more ups than downs and memories to last a lifetime, which Venkys, Steve Kean and the Rovers' PR machine can never take away from us. But following the latest debacle of this nonsense of a season the reality is that we will be starting a new chapter of the club's history in a different division next season. I guess the fans' were right after all...
Just as day turns into night, it was inevitable that Steve Kean would big up our chances of survival after the shambles of Swansea. The master tactician reckons that two wins and a draw from the remaining four games will be enough to survive, but can anyone see this happening given current form and internal strife at the club?
The Swansea experience from start to finish was indicative of what has occurred this season. It started with Gael Givet's appearance and then non appearance for apparently "not being in the right frame of mind". It then saw 90 minutes devoid of ideas with a defence made up of individuals playing in unfamiliar positions seemingly more at home on It's a Knockout' rather than a Premier League pitch. We then had a midfield, with the exception of David Dunn which was already thinking of Barbados beach rather than the consequences of relegation and a trip to Barnsley. Steven N'Zonzi, who has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent this season, appears to believing his own hype and has an attitude at present which is not conducive to a relegation battle.
Off the field, our wonderful owners again showed how committed and concerned they are by our predicament by their usual non appearance. The contempt they show for the supporters reaches new depths on a weekly basis. And to finish off with we had our PR representative hovering over Steve Kean in the post match interviews ready to pounce when questions posing a threat to national security like "What's wrong with Gael Givet?" were being asked.
In many ways, I believe our fate was sealed against Liverpool. The game and atmosphere reminded me very much of the Forest game in May 1999 when we were beaten 2-1 at Ewood desperately needing a win to stay up. We left Ewood on Tuesday night fearing the worse and our fears were confirmed at the Liberty.
Let's face it, Steve Kean is not good enough, the owners are not good enough and the players are not good enough. We have seen experienced defenders in Michel Salgado, Brett Emerton, Ryan Nelson and Chris Samba being allowed to leave the club and replaced with nothing (except for Scott Dann who has looked more like Dudley Moore than Bobby Moore since joining the club). It is criminal that Samba was allowed to leave the club after the English window was closed with no possibility of finding a replacement and also the transfer of the supposedly 'injured' Ryan Nelson to Spurs. It is good to see youngsters come through but there needs to be a balance.
The supporters have been criticised from all sides and sources this season. The media 'love in' with Steve Kean has at times resembled that of Diana. It is no surprise that the biggest apologists of Mr Kean are those so called expert pundits who fail to scratch underneath the surface of the goings on at Ewood Park and also those fellow members of the LMA. This is no shock as they always look after their own, but I have been amazed by how much support Kean has received from certain sections of the press and the criticism Rovers fans have received in return.
With the exception of the brilliant Henry Winter in the Telegraph, there has been a great deal of lazy journalism when it has come to investigating the going ons at Ewood. It has been Rovers fans who have come under the spotlight for the apparent 'abuse' of Steve Kean and not the affairs of the owners. The vast majority of Rovers supporters have not 'abused' Steve Kean but have voiced their concerns at the debacle unravelling at Ewood. The players and manager received support of the fans in the four defeats leading up to the Swansea so they can't be blamed in influencing the outcome of those results. The largest vocal protests should always be reserved for the owners and this is where they should be aimed in the games to come.
There are inconsistencies and a degree of hypocrisy with the press. We all remember the personal abuse Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor received when they were in charge of the national side and I am sure there are other instances which can be mentioned.
As soon as the final whistle blows on Rovers' stay in the Premier League, it is inevitable that the fans will be blamed for the relegation. Steve Kean will be seen to be the victim and the protestors will be charged for influencing the performances on the field.
The truth is, the supporters are exhausted. The effect on season ticket sales regardless of what division we find ourselves in are bound to be catastrophic. I still live in the hope of some kind of double miracle occurring, that being Premier League survival coupled with a change of regime, but that would be beyond our wildest dreams.